Scots crime writers eye novel of the year prize

TALES of a missing rock star, a Twitter killer and a stand-up comic’s attempts to survive a plague are in the running for one of Scotland’s leading literary honours.

Ann Cleeves is just one of the hopefuls wanting to steal the crime crown. Picture: Greg Macvean

A murder mystery set amid spiritualist and Druid circles in Glasgow and a suicide riddle during a university reunion on Britain’s most northerly island are also in contention to be named the nation’s crime novel of the year.

Louise Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Ann Cleeves and Lin Anderson are among the big-named authors who will be battling it out when the winner is named at the annual Bloody Scotland event in September.

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The award was launched three years ago to coincide with the inaugural staging of Scotland’s international crime writing festival in Stirling.

Brookmyre, Welsh and Cleeves have all been previous nominees for the honour, which was set up to “recognise excellence in Scottish crime writing”, and has been won by Peter May, Malcolm Mackay and Charles Cumming in previous years.

The six shortlisted books were chosen by an expert panel from a 55-strong longlist of titles released over a 12-month period. To be eligible, the writer must be born or living in Scotland, or have set their work here.

The winner of the Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year will be chosen by three judges – Magnus Linklater, former editor of The Scotsman; writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson; and Carol Macpherson, manager of the Waterstone bookstore on Glasgow’s Argyle Street – and presented by May, the 2014 ­winner.

Cleeves, who has had a number of her novels about detective Jimmy Perez adapted by BBC Scotland for its acclaimed Shetland series, is in the running for the sixth novel, Thin Air.

The latest mystery unfolds during a gathering of old university friends on the island of Unst, at the far north of Shetland, to celebrate the wedding of one of their friends to a local, only for one of their number to suddenly vanish.

Welsh’s book, Death is a Welcome Guest, follows the events after the arrest of Orcadian comic Magnus McFall, who is arrested just as a pandemic called “The Sweats” is sweeping London and finds himself imprisoned without trial, only to get the chance to break free with a fellow convict and head home.

Former police officer-turned-author Craig Russell has been nominated for The Ghosts of Altona, the latest instalment in his series of novels about a Hamburg-based detective, Jan Fabel.

Ex-journalist Brookmyre has revived his troubled hack Jack Parlabane for another hazardous investigation, this time into the disappearance of a glamorous female rock singer, in Dead Girl Walking.

Matt Bendoris, a current tabloid journalist, has made Bloody Scotland’s shortlist with his second book, DM for Murder, which explores the hunt for the killer of a US talk show host who has received thousands of death threats on Twitter.

Lin Anderson’s latest thriller, Paths of the Dead, has her forensic scientist creation Rhona 
MacLeod investigating the death of a young man inside a neolithic stone circle on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Dom Hastings, director of Bloody Scotland, said “This year’s shortlist is testament to the strength, variety and diversity of crime writing in Scotland.

“You can travel from a misty midsummer night in Shetland to a high-security prison in the middle of an outbreak; experience the mysteries of a Druidic stone circle and the cut-throat anonymities of cyberspace, go on tour with a famous rock band or track down a long-lost killer.

“It’s a bit of a spooky list, with several of the novels flirting with the supernatural; also, interestingly, four of the titles are anchored by long-standing protagonists, proving that innovation and excellence still flourish in ongoing series fiction. All in all, it’s a phenomenally strong showing, demonstrating crime fiction in Scotland is still in rude, bloody health.”

Anderson, Brookmyre and Cleeves are all appearing at Bloody Scotland, along with Martina Cole, Linwood Barclay, William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin and Denisa Mina.